In a little over a month, the United States will complete the process of going to the polls to elect (among other offices) the person who serve as President.
I have several enduring memories about the last Presidential election-back in 2016. One comes from being in the barber shop the day after the election, getting my hair cut. Naturally, the topic of the previous day’s election came up. To my dismay, there were people bragging about not having voted.
While I did not say anything, I was both appalled and sad. There were people-Black and White-who gave their lives to give Black people the chance to give their vote. That just seemed to me to be a betrayal of their sacrifice.
I suppose then that is the first reason why I believe that you should vote over the next few weeks-especially, if you are a person of color. It does not cost us anything for us to vote today (except perhaps, time). But for us to get the opportunity to vote cost people their lives.
Here are 2 other reasons:
- Leadership Matters: One of the great myths that people who do not vote believe is that their vote does not matter and that who gets elected does not matter.
Let’s look at that first myth-my vote does not matter:
In 2002, George W. Bush became President because he won the state of Florida by 537 votes, out of nearly 6 million votes cast. That means if 269 voters (out of 6 million) had switched their votes from George Bush for Al Gore-or, if 538 more people had voted for Al Gore in Florida, he would have been President.
Look at it another way. There are about 4,500 voting places in the state of Florida. If in every seventh polling place (not in every polling place, but in every seventh voting place), Al Gore could have gotten one more person to vote for him, he would have been President.
But, he didn’t get that one extra vote. George Bush became President. He nominated 2 justices to the Supreme Court, including the person who is now the Chief Justice. That means a Supreme Court that is about to have 6 conservative justices and 3 liberal ones, would have had 5 liberal judges and 4 conservatives. Think about that the next time a major case comes before the Supreme Court-like Obamacare or a case about someone who lost their job because they wouldn’t work on the Sabbath.
The point is, 20 years after that election, the votes of those 269 people in Florida still affect all of our lives today. Your vote matters. If Richard Nixon received 2 or 3 votes more votes per voting place in 1960, he’s President instead of John F. Kennedy. Your vote matters.
And who the leader is, matters. Leadership guru, John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. Historian Margaret McMillan said, “Leaders have choices and the capacity to take history down one path rather than the other.”
Look at the Bible. Sometimes, the children of Israel obeyed God-most of the time, they didn’t. But once they had a king, whether they obeyed God or they didn’t, was always tied to who the king was. If the king was disobedient, so were God’s people. Every time. Who the leader is, matters.
I am writing this the day after the Presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Biden. During a debate, President Trump essentially gave a “shout out” to the Proud Boys, a violent, misogynistic, xenophobic group (according to the Anti-Defamation League)-who title themselves as “western chauvinists”. Anybody think that anybody else who was President would have done that, ever, in our lifetime? Who the leader is matters.
Here is one more myth: Voting does not matter because all politicians are bad, corrupt, etc. First, that is a sweeping generalization-and sweeping generalizations that put everyone in the same category are almost never right. Someone said once ”It is always true that always and never are never true”.
Second, if we say that all of our politicians are bad-and we are the ones that choose them, then-what does that say about us? We get who we choose. And even if you don’t vote, you still choose. Voter silence (not voting) is voter acquiescence. If someone is in office and I do not vote, I essentially am voting to allow him/her to remain in office.
- As Christians, We Have an Obligation to Our Communities to Help Make Our Communities Better in This World While We Prepare People for the Next World: Jesus said “Occupy until I come”.
Part of the Church’s mission is to look out for those who cannot look out for themselves-the last, the least, the left out, the lonely. In fact, Matthew 25 makes it clear that in the end, that is the question that He will ask us on Judgement Day: How did you relate to the “least of these, My brethren?”
By referring to the unfortunate as “My brethren”, Jesus identifies with them-indeed, He was poor and homeless-He said, “the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay His head”. He expects His church to identify themselves with those same people.
There are people, groups and movements who are kind and respectful to the less fortunate. There are others who are not. How society chooses to relate to “the least of these” is often decided by which people they choose as their leaders.
For Christians not to participate in the process of selecting leadership is to risk allowing those whose actions affect the work of God to fall into the hands of the wrong men and women.
Now-there is a wrong way to participate in the process. For us as individuals and for us as a church to become partisan and polarizing is antithetical to our mission. We are called to take the gospel to the whole world-not just to those who share our political views.
Our mission is not FUBU-for us, by us-because if it is, as Elder Roger Hernandez says, “after a while, it will be only us”. Our mission is to find people who are not like us, introduce them to Jesus, and then invite them to follow us (as we follow Jesus).
And that mission is compromised every time we become partisan and attack people who don’t vote like us.
Real talk: President Trump is not very popular in the Black Adventist community. He’s not. He may boast-as he consistently has-about “having done more for African-Americans than any President since Abraham Lincoln”. But the polls show that most black people don’t see him that way.
But if you are a Black SDA Pastor, it would be a mistake to assume that because President Trump is unpopular with most of your congregation (and-he probably is) that he is unpopular with all your congregation (he almost certainly isn’t).
And while your attacks on him are likely get you lots of virtual “Amens” in your sermon and likes on your Facebook, the fact is that there is usually someone/someones in your church who not only like President Trump, they really like him. They will see your attacks on him as an attack on them. And political attacks, distract-they distract from our mission.
Our ultimate mission is not likes on Facebook or even “Amens” in the pulpit but converts in the kingdom. And anything that gets us away from our mission is neither a good thing or a God thing.
I am not completely sure who will win this year’s Presidential election. I do think that in a lot of ways, who wins, matters. That is why I think everyone needs to vote. Elections matter. Leadership matters. It always has mattered and it always will.
Except for one thing: No matter who wins this election, “soon, He that shall come”, really “will come”. He’ll come whether there is a Republican in the White House, or a Democrat. He will come-and when He comes, He’ll win in the final battle with sin and evil.
So, please, vote now, but please remember that in the end, neither President Trump nor Vice President Biden will win.
In the end, Jesus wins. Decisively-and eternally.